The Nightmare Quest for a Sports Bra

In magazineland, sports bra shopping looks like this.
In real life, it looks like this:

I went shopping today on my lunch hour. I should probably point out first that this is a rare occurrence – I abhor shopping. My soul is sucked into the great grey void that is the shopping centre as soon as I step through the doors, I get a full on sweaty palm attack just contemplating a rack of dresses, and I been known to actually have nightmares about communal changing rooms. I like clothes, I just hate the awful environments those clothes live in.

That said, I ventured out today with a bucket load of optimism, excited to be on the lookout for a new pair of trainers and a sports bra for my cardio box class tonight – surely the plethora of shops dedicated to a mind boggling array of sports gear would prove to be a gold mine of sporty treasures to spend my payday gold on! Hooray!

Oh how wrong I can be. 

I decided to bypass the gargantuan Sports Direct store following a previous experience in their Halifax store, that almost resulted in a full on paddy at the tills. I had recently begun my foray into the world of exercise – being 5ft 2, a size 14, and having a lifelong love affair with cooking, wine and many many rums, I decided it was high time I did something active to balance out all the time I spend lying around in pyjamas shovelling cheese, cake and Rioja down my neck. 

(Note I said balance, not lose half my body weight, or get ripped in 4 weeks. Contrary to those who choose to loudly ask me how much I want to lose/what my goal weight is, I actually exercise to feel healthy and strong, and am quite content to do this at a size 14. Plus this way I can continue with the cheese/wine quaffing...)

I did my first few classes in leggings, my boyfriend’s t-shirt (‘STOP WEARING MY TSHIRTS you keep putting big booby marks in them'), a woefully small and unsupportive sports bra and some very fetching 90’s Adidas pumps, complete with neon go faster stripes. Although the leggings, trainers and t-shirt held up fine, I was beginning to have all kind of concerns about the sports bra, mainly around losing all control of my wayward mammaries and clobbering my fellow class members in the face with them.

In a bid to prevent this unnecessary boob induced face bashing, I headed off to my local Sports Direct to purchase a proper sports bra. An adult’s sports bra. With reinforced mesh. And wires. And hopefully some rudimentary form of scaffolding included. Sadly, I don’t think anyone has told the buyers of Sports Direct that some women who do sport have breasts the size the cashier’s head and they need proper support damn it! I had an array of flimsy crop tops to choose from, plus two ‘high impact’ sports bras. Obviously they only had one in my size, so I grabbed it and asked the nearest store assistant where I could go to set about hefting my wares into the beast. Turns out they don’t do changing rooms in that store (????) but I was assured I could try it on at home and bring it back if it didn’t fit. Fair enough. However, knowing that my naturally capacity for procrastination is insanely high, I thought I would nip into Dorothy Perkins there and then and try it on, else I would never get round it. Needless to say, the sports bra was a huge disappointment. Although not huge enough. Despite being labelled as my size, it was quite clearly about three sizes too small and totally bereft of support to boot. Not a good combination.

I decided to hike back to SD and get my money back, then investigate the bra department in good old M&S. Scuppered again! I was told at the tills that ‘we don’t do returns, only credit notes’. Argh! After a lot of huffing and eye rolling I ended up leaving with some stretchy grey lycra pants that weirdly make me sweat more whilst outlining my crotch in a really off putting way. Fail.

Anyhoooo. Back to today. Walking straight past the accursed SD, I headed for JD Sports, which in my mind was going to be a bit more up market and stocked with all manner of awesome holstering mechanisms and hopefully some comfy, sturdy but snazzy trainers too. I wandered around for a good 5 minutes, looking for any sign of trainers smaller than an actual boat, before I decided to just ask someone where I could find trainers in a size5/5.5. The guy pointed me to a small display of what I can only term as ‘fashion trainers’ (I may only be 28, but I am unashamedly hopeless when it comes to anything ‘on trend’). He looked utterly perplexed as I asked him where the trainers in my size for doing actual sport were, before showing me the 2 PINK pairs they had, down in the bottom corner. 2 PAIRS! The shop had hundreds of trainers and only 2 that are suitable for sport under a size 8!

I was utterly dumbfounded, and wandered off, cursing my apparently inappropriately sized feet, to find the sports bras. Their women’s clothes section was, unsurprisingly, tiny. Not only was it small, but most of it was blocked with a stock rail that had been put there and forgotten about. They had a couple of crop tops, and something that looked like a bikini top for Sporty Barbie. Whilst standing there wondering what the hell was going on and whether it was just me who had a problem with this, they decided to crank up the in store music and fill the shop with a track that repeatedly shouted ‘bitches, bitches ho’ repeatedly until I thought my face had started to melt.

Is it too much to ask to have sports shops that have a good, quality array of exercise clothing and shoes for women as well as men? To see trainers that don’t have 89 shades of fluorescent pink all over them? To have some actual sports bras that are made to withstand the rigours of running/high impact classes as well as the usual flimsy crop tops? While we’re at it, could we please have some fucking changing rooms to try this gear on in? And not those half ass ones that have a door that only covers you from shoulder to knee and means you start sweating profusely whilst trying to cram yourself into the tiny lycra band that passes for a bra whilst simultaneously worrying about the spotty teenage 'lad' that appears to be appraising your wobbly bits in the mirror. 

- MB